A short hike up the King Canyon Trail is a journey not only into pristine desert terrain — but also into the historic and prehistoric past.

The trail, in Saguaro National Park west of Tucson, takes trekkers past an old stone-walled building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and, nearby, ancient petroglyphs etched into rocks between A.D. 300 and 1450.

“There’s a whole range of history there,” said Richard Hill of the park’s west district. “It’s our most popular trail and gets a lot of use.”


It’s an easy 0.9-mile hike to the stone-walled building and petroglyph sites from a trailhead along Kinney Road near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The trail, which follows an old, rocky road that’s now closed to traffic, takes hikers gradually uphill to a high point where the building is visible amid desert vegetation below.

After descending from the high point, hikers reach the Mam-A-Gah picnic area.

The historic building, on a nearby slope, once served as a restroom but now remains as an unused piece of the past, Hill said.

The petroglyphs — mysterious zigs, zags, circles, symbols and possibly some animal forms — are etched on rocks along a sandy wash just downstream from the picnic area. There are no signs pointing out the glyphs, but spotting them is quite easy.

Left behind by ancient Indians known today as the Hohokam, the chipped and weathered petroglyphs are far from the best examples of rock art in the Southwest. But they provide a glimpse into the lives of people living in this region long ago.

The petroglyphs are believed to date anywhere from A.D. 300 or 400 to 1450, Hill said.

They are messages that were set in stone before Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 on the shores of the New World. Take care not to touch or damage them in any way.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz